If I were to die tomorrow, I really couldn't complain. Don't get me wrong, I'm in no hurry at all. Things are going pretty well these days, and I have some very cool things to look forward to...a new romantic interest, a party weekend in Miami, and damn it, I am going to visit Jack in Australia. Some day. Soon.
But when it comes right down to it, my life has been so good so far that I won't be able to complain when it ends, even if it ends a whole lot sooner than I'd like. I think a major reason for this is that, as a general rule, I refuse to live with regret.
Oh sure, I've done some real bonehead things in my time, and there are little things I might do differently if I had a chance to do them again. And yeah, on a daily basis there are little things I wish I had done or not done...I wish I had bought stock in Cisco, I wish I'd had the guts to introduce myself, I wish I'd submitted a column last month..., but by and large they're all pretty minor things.
You see, I'm pretty happy with my life, and I'm pretty happy with who I am. The person I am today, and the life that I have right now, are the direct result of all of the decisions I've made so far. Everything we do has repercussions - ripples, if you will. Every situation we're presented with is the result of ripples from ourselves or someone else.
Now maybe you can argue that many of the decisions I've made were so trivial that they didn't effect who I am and where I am today, but we generally don't get to see the end result of a lot of those ripples. Who am I to say which ones went on to cause profound or trivial results? If you weren't in a certain place at a certain time you wouldn't have met a certain person who told you about a certain opportunity...and so it goes.
And this philosophy works pretty well for me. But you'll notice I said that not living with regret was a general rule. There is one thing that I really do regret.
Years ago, my grandfather used to tell me stories about his life, growing up in Cape Cod, MA. He told me about hearing the town crier in Provincetown welcoming the arriving visitors as they walked down the wharf from the ships. Day in, and day out, "Welcome to Provincetown and the Governor Bradford Inn..." He told me about his adventures with a friend, driving a Model-A Ford from Cape Cod to Florida. His tales were both entertaining and enlightening, and gave me a glimpse of a time gone by.
And I never wrote a word of it down. In fact, as a kid I found the stories entertaining, but I didn't see their value. It didn't occur to me that one day my grandparents would be gone, and their stories, their history, along with them.
Real history isn't something you can just read about in a book. It's more than a flat detailing of events. History is the summation of lives lived and experiences shared. It's vibrant and personal. It's full of dreams and aspirations, of loves and losses, of adventures and misadventures.
Now, I look back and wish that I had paid more attention, asked more questions, and taken notes. I know little or nothing about my how my father's mother came to this country. How did she get here? What was her life like before? How did my grandparent's meet?
On my mother's side, my grandmother and great-grandmother kept photo albums. I pore over the old photographs looking for clues and insight, but I'm left with more questions than answers. I've developed a keen interest in my family's geneology, but have let three incredible resources slip out of my life and into the past I'm now so interested in.
And I regret that. A lot.
Still, who can complain about a life with only one regret? I'm really very fortunate. At least I had the times and heard the stories that I did. And if my philosophy holds true, then this regret is also part of who I am now. Maybe it will drive me to be more appreciative of what's around me right now. Maybe it's a little part of why I write. It has already inspired me to write this column, and maybe this will inspire one of you to get close to someone and capture their personal history. Maybe you'll learn something that changes your life in some small way. Maybe you'll tell someone about it.
And the ripples will continue ever outward.
See that job title? Check it out: "Spy". How cool is that? I know, you're probably wondering what it means to be a spy for an international organization like Intrepid Media, huh? Well I'd love to tell you, but I can't. It's all part of the spy game, baby.
ABOUT ROGER STRIFFLER
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IF YOU LIKED THIS COLUMN...
3.27.02 @ 8:35a
Absolutely! Get out a tape recorder and just have at it. There is something so special about what appears to be the "common" life - each story prompts a laugh, wonder, you name it.
And people loooove to talk when they are certain you're listening. They'll tell you anything.
3.27.02 @ 10:16a
Important thing we often forget. My grandmother is visiting and the other night we all sat around talking about when my dad was growing up. Best time I've had with my family for as long as I can remember.
3.27.02 @ 11:13a
You couldn't be more right, Roger! After my mother died, it hit me how many questions I never asked her, and how many things about her I didn't know, and the regret was terrible. But the result has been that I'm closer than ever to my family, and I love listening to my grandparents talk, and write down whatever I can remember. Sometimes I hate the fact that there is no way that I will ever get all of it, but I keep reminding myself that every little piece is something to pass on to my kids, if I have any, to connect them to their history.
And I actually found out that two ancestors of mine narrowly escaped being hanged (not for criminal acts) before coming to America. I just think that's the coolest thing ever.
3.27.02 @ 11:34a
I narrowly escaped being hung. But that's because I'm Jewish. I've never come close to being hanged.
3.27.02 @ 11:35a
Ok, grammer isn't my strong point first...well, second thing in the morning.
3.27.02 @ 11:37a
That's okay. I edit copy and grammar for a living. Don't sweat it.
Regarding the column; my 93 year old grandfather recorded his memories sometime during the '80s. I keep meaning to ask him to update the tapes, except that I've actually been around for that period of time, so they'll probably go in my memoirs, whenever that occurs.
3.27.02 @ 11:55a
My mother's father died when she was 16. Both my dad's parents died before I was 12. And mom's mom died when I was 18. I always feel jealous that other people still have their grandparents around. I have a million questions I'd love to ask mine.
3.27.02 @ 12:15p
I've always felt lucky that I had three grandparents and was very close with them, especially on my Mom's side. I do know a little bit of how you feel though since I never met my father's father and will always wonder what he was really like.
[edited because I can't type today...]
3.27.02 @ 5:21p
Thanks for putting this into words, Roger. The "ripple effect" is something I've had on my mind a lot, lately.
Several years ago, a good friend invited me to join him on a trip to New Orleans for a long weekend. At first, I wasn't able to schedule it...but at the last minute I was able to go. At some point over that weekend I found myself separated from my friends on a dance floor, and ended up talking to a stranger whom I became good friends with over the course of the weekend. Not long after that, he introduced me to Intrepid Media. If it weren't for that chance encounter in N'Awlins, I would have never met all the folks here at IM.
Thanks again for that, Roger. (Oh, and Adam? Now you know who to blame...)
3.28.02 @ 9:50a
3.28.02 @ 3:57p
Jack, if you make it back to Atlanta (or I make it over to Oz) we'll have to crack open a bottle of Shiraz and talk about all the ripples that started that fateful day...
(Hmmm...and maybe I should write it all down...)
3.28.02 @ 4:21p
I'm thinkin' that's what you should do. ;)
How I found Joe/IM is a Six Degrees of Separation story...for Joe. (And I don't think he knows this.)
My husband Matt covered a Character Counts event in Raleigh many years ago, where he interviewed Tom Selleck. Matt's table mate at this event was a guy named Dan Sullivan. The two of them became good friends and consquently, I became friends with Dan.
Last year, Dan and I were working on a project, and while pooling together writing talent we needed on this venture, Dan gave me Joe as our "tech man in the know." Joe was someone Dan had met at some other function spearheaded by Allison. (If I remember correctly.)
And here I am. So Joe is 3 (or 4) removed from the Moustachioed one and I'm one happy little Intrepidite.
3.28.02 @ 4:26p
Matt interviewed Tom Selleck??? Cooooool.
3.28.02 @ 5:00p
I met Joe through my good friend Rob Stark. I don't remember now how they met, but I know rock and roll was involved.
Oh yeah, and beer.
3.28.02 @ 5:10p
I've never met Joe, and everyday he thanks God for that. Cuz he knows when I do meet him, I'll be packin'.
3.28.02 @ 8:17p
3.28.02 @ 8:36p
Yeah, you do that, Mike. Every day, twice a day, when I'm cleaning the pins, my motivation is the thought of killing you with a cotton swab.
A cotton swab.
3.28.02 @ 11:13p
Joe's eyes are so full of revenge, he doesn't even comment on our meeting.
3.29.02 @ 11:12a
Sorry Tracey. My first encounter with you was that marathon discussion of all things writing from the palatial offices of SilverStream. That piece I wrote for Brighter Ideas was my last tech piece, by the way, and I almost didn't even write that one.
I met Rob Stark through Tony Constantinos, regretfully not an IMer, who was one-half of my acoustic side project "2-Man Hootenanny." I've also got to say that, as much as I love Jack Black, Tenacious is completely ripping 2MH off. Some of our awesome catalog was "Anson Williams," "Uncle No-Pants," "I'm Sad," and "The Girl I Love,"
4.1.02 @ 12:55a
I was fortunate enough to know my mother's parents and stepparents, my father's mother, my first stepfather's parents and grandparents, my second stepfather's parents, and my stepmother's parents and grandmother. I swear I am the only person in the world with 14 grandparents. And each and every one of them had at least one fascinating story to tell. I'm SO glad I listened!
4.13.02 @ 10:14p
I did buy stock in Cisco, and lost a bundle. Not a minor thing, I can assure you! So don't regret it, even for a second.
I guess I need to get out the tape recorder and ask Mom and Dad to start recording all the cool (and not-so-cool) things they've seen and done. As the song says, "you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone".